KARACHI - Three employees of a private TV channel were killed in an attack on the channel’s van late Friday night. Armed men targeted the van near Board Office Intersection in Nazimabad Police precincts.

Police said the live coverage van was passing through the area when gunmen riding two motorbikes sprayed bullets and managed to flee. The victims were taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where doctors pronounced their deaths. They were identified as driver Khalid, technician Waqas and guard Ashraf. The bodies were handed over to the families after autopsy. Police said the gunmen wearing Shalwar Qamiz riding two motorbikes came and targeted all the three victims sitting on the front seats. A cameraman Mehtab sitting back in the van remained unhurt.

Various journalists’ bodies condemned the incident and announced a countrywide protest against the attack on media persons. Witnesses said the gunmen fled towards Banaras area without any resistance by law enforcers.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, MQM chief Altaf Hussain and other political and non-political organisations condemned both the incidents. The CM directed the authorities concerned to take stern action against the culprits involved.

Regional Taliban spokesman Sajjad Mohmand claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to Reuters. “We will continue to target the media if they do not stop propaganda against Islam and the Taliban,” he said.

Former Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told the station it had been attacked because the Taliban considered its coverage biased and the Taliban would continue to attack journalists they disagreed with.

“Channels should give coverage to our ideology. Otherwise we will continue attacking the media,” the TV station broadcast him saying.

The same TV was attacked twice last year and several employees were injured.

Five journalists were killed in Pakistan last year. The Committee to Protect Journalists says it is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist.

In a separate targeted attack by unknown men, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Samiul Haq group) Sindh secretary general Mufti Usman Yar Khan was gunned down along with his private security guard and a driver near Awami Markaz at Sharah-e-Faisal on Friday.

Mufti Usman Yar Khan was going home at Gulistan-e-Jauhar after attending a seminar in Saddar area. Witnesses said the gunmen intercepted the car near Awami Markaz and opened indiscriminate fire, killing Mufti and two others on the spot and critically wounding another.

The bodies were shifted to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for autopsy where a large number of party leaders, workers and supporters also reached and shouted slogans against the incident.

“All the three persons were brought dead to the hospital,” said JPMC Deputy Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali. The injured man was shot multiple times and his condition was critical, she added.

Talking to JUI-S Karachi chief Qari Abdul Mannan via telephone, JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq condemned the incident and announced three-day countrywide mourning. He said the government had given the permit to terrorists to operate freely, especially in Karachi. Our party activists including the Ulema and seminary students are continuously being targeted.

Meanwhile, JUI-S leader Hafiz Ahmed Ali while talking to the media men outside the JPMC said target killing of Mufti Usman was a conspiracy to provoke violence in Karachi. He said that the government had failed to protect the lives of religious scholars, and the City was turning into a war zone as killers operated freely. Target killing of the JUI-S leaders left a question mark on the ongoing operation. He demanded the government arrest the killers immediately, else party would announce a protest drive across the country.

Mufti’s guard was identified as Muhammad Ali and driver as Muhammad Rafiq while the injured as Saad Iqbal. Mufti Usman was also the vice principal of Jamia Darul Khair situated in Block 15, Gulistan-e-Jauhar while his father is principal of the seminary.

Bahadurabad SHO Zahid Hussain said at least four armed culprits were behind the attack. The police will also try to make the sketches of the culprits with the help of the witnesses. He said the motive behind the incident had yet to be ascertained.

Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat chief Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi also condemned the incident and demanded the law enforcers to arrest the culprits. “These killings are a conspiracy to spark sectarian clashes,” he said.